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Blindness is not the end of seeing; it is the beginning of seeing more clearly.

Susan L. McNeish has accomplished success in many fields, including more than 20 years as a hair stylist. But after enduring the anguish of losing her vision in 1996 and the depression that followed, Susan became determined to help people cope with their painful life experiences.

“So many counselors helped me through the process, and I was going to return my thankfulness and become a therapist,” says Susan, who now serves as a psychotherapist and counselor at Lake Erie Counseling Inc. in Erie, Pa., where she specializes in social work and counseling and focuses on schizophrenia and marriage therapy.

Susan’s journey has been filled with challenges. After becoming blind, she had to adjust to life with a disability, while coping with severe depression, anxiety, and abandonment issues.

“While enduring all of this, my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” Susan says. “I cared for him as long as I could until my physicians ordered me to place him in a nursing home. My health was slowly deteriorating. My mountain of pain continued to climb, but I was determined to beat it.”

Susan overcame many of her personal challenges and with help from her guide dog, has regained some of her independence.

 “I am a very independent person with my dog,” she says. “I intend to remain independent. My favorite saying is: ‘Blindness is not the end of seeing; it is the beginning of seeing more clearly.’”

Susan is making a difference in the lives of others by sharing her compassion and experiences. She strives for excellence personally and professionally and is a supporter of the rights of disabled people. She has played an important role in the implementation of measures to help the blind and disabled in her community.

As president of the Erie County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind, she was successful in getting Braille signage in Erie County public schools. Her work has also included a program that enforces a county law to have sidewalks shoveled within five hours after a major snowstorm. In addition, she has traveled the United States to talk with blind people who did not think they qualified for a guide dog, and visited Washington D.C. to insist that certain sidewalk curbs be changed to allow easier access for disabled people.

Susan, who earned her master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from Argosy University, is also proud of continuing her education and pursuing a career in psychotherapy and counseling. She hopes her experiences can inspire others.

“My beginning goal was to receive my Ph.D.,” she says. “I keep telling my grandchildren I will quit college when it is time to call me ‘Dr. Gramma’! I feel the goals I have reached at age 60 have impacted my grandchildren tremendously.”

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